There was a time when I thought Kate Nelligan represented the very pinnacle of sexiness. My opinion was formed by her role in Eye of the Needle in 1981, in which she repeatedly made sweet, sweet love with a Nazi spy and then atoned for it by (spoiler alert) chopping off a couple of his fingers and ventilating him with a Webley revolver. No matter; I’ll bet it was still one of Donald Sutherland’s favorite roles.
They don’t make movies like that anymore. Actually, they do; but they don’t make movies like that with women like Kate Nelligan in them. She looks — I don’t know — too real. Too womanly. When they get around to remaking Eye of the Needle, we will see somebody like Natalie Portman or Keira Knightley in the role: kind of bony and ethereal and completely unsuited to the rigors of raising sheep on Storm Island.
Kate Nelligan is still pretty easy on the eyes, but like all actresses of a certain age (except maybe Meryl Streep and Annette Bening) her career since has veered irrevocably into TV movies. Her twilight resume is full of the kind of Lifetime crap where aging women lose their children and are betrayed by perverted husbands and contract incurable diseases. I’m pretty sure she no longer gets the scripts that have her frolicking with deadly spies. Too bad. Because somehow I think she’d still be up to it.
About Eye of the Needle. I watched it last night after the wife mentioned she’d recently viewed it too. It’s almost 30 years old now, but holds up well. I like Donald Sutherland almost as much as I like Kate Nelligan, and it’s kind of cool seeing them both at the height of their powers. Yeah, it’s always bothered me that the plot features a helicopter that was unavailable for general use in 1944, but other than that it’s a tight, well-paced film that won’t have you looking at your watch. And if you’re a man of a certain age, those seminude scenes of Ms. Nelligan just might have you looking for the rewind.
Or so I’m told.